Portland’s Crows Are Back. So Are the Laser-Guided Hawks That Scare Them Off.

Comments

1

I love every word of this article! Seeing the crows at their pre-roost is so excitingly apocalyptic, I’ve always wondered what the hell they were doing.
I disagree with the citizen scientists though, the poop is kind of revolting. It’s been a few years since I’ve walked downtown after the crows take off, but it’s so slimey and the smell is a new brand of yuck.

2

I work and live downtown and frankly, I would trade all the human feces and used needles for crow poop in a heartbeat.

3

Crows are amazingly smart animals. I’ve spent many years on Portland streets as a cab driver. They seem to be able to determine a driver’s intentions beforehand. When they saw me coming, they would generally walk to the side of the road and wait for me to pass. I have also seen them take flight well ahead of aggressive drivers, You might hear a single crow, when you step out of your house, announcing your presence to near by murder members. However, should a red tailed hawk knock a crow out of the sky and leave it injured and unable fly, that crow is on his own. The other crows disappear. My dog and I have delayed a hawk’s dinner a couple of times. Each time the crow, dragging a broken wing, would “run” behind a tree in an attempt to hide itself from the circling predator. Crows don’t have great orthopedic surgeons. The crows clearly felt as frightened of us (big dog) as they were of the hawk. It was a helpless feeling. Watching naturally occurring violent behavior doesn’t make it less brutal.

4

The crows are one of my absolute favorite things about Portland. People like to screw around with things they don't understand and then things get worse and it costs six time more to try to reverse the problem.
You chase the crows away and we are going to get swarmed by seagulls or pigeons or rats filling their niche... All of which are bolder and dirtier. Take a look at other cities and you will realize you are lucky as hell to have these beautiful, intelligent, and relatively non-obnoxious birds around. And why the hell are we paying a guy with a falcon $60,000 a year to harass a protected species!? This city can't think of a better way to spend that money? Maybe people that have a problem with the local wildlife should be the ones to go somewhere else.

5

Crows are (at least) as cool as swifts.

9,540 was our count from this past Saturday evening, with crows on 33 distinct blocks--22 of which were within the hawk project area.

Thank you to Sarah for a great piece and to the Mercury for publishing a balanced story. Rebecca and I remain opposed to the hazing project on both ethical and scientific grounds. Portland has Forest Park, The Park Blocks, rolls out the red carpet for Vaux's Swifts, and passed bird-safe rules for new construction. Bravo. However, trying to forcefully relocate the crows for human convenience seems to be an example of welcoming our urban/wild interface only when it is, well, convenient. As for the science, none exists to support the unproven no-harm hypothesis that "terrorizing" the crows, as Sarah put it, won't lead to negative impacts. Natural history is rife with examples of species declines and extinctions (think Passenger Pigeons going from 3 billion to zero in about 100 years, and the all-but-extinct Hawaiian Crow) following human intervention based on this sort of rationalization.

Simply put, hazing the crows may or many not cause them harm. Since there is no science, we need to do the research while minimizing the potential for harm. We look forward to renewing our collaboration from last season with IAS (the falconers) so that we can get the best possible data. We also want to publicly thank the Audubon Society of Portland for partnering with us by reviewing our methodology and data.

If you want to learn more or help with the counting, please visit our web site at pdxcrowroost.com

Gary Granger

6

Counting Crows

7

Thanks for this story. This may not be sexy, but it is good local journalism. For the record, I'm a strong backer of the falconers and the minimizing of getting pooped on when I walk to work.

8

Hazing them out of downtown just means they roost in other parts of town, like the CEID and other inner east side locations.

9

It is insupportable to claim to be a "scientist" and also participate in the "naturopathy" scam. How about you interview a qualified biologist or ornithologist.

10

Crows, still as cool as swifts--all 9,860 of them

As of this morning (Friday) before dawn, there were some 9,860 crows roosting over at least 42 downtown blocks--27 of which were inside the hawk hazing area. Surprisingly little residual poop since rain is "a thing" here in PDX. Moving them around the city, as "randyzpdx" pointed out just leads to droppings in someone else's neighborhood. We Portlanders want trees and park blocks, but only the birds that don't annoy us with their "pesky" survival strategies and poop. Who are we to insist?

To "pcashman" I offer that ornithology has used citizen and community science since its inception. Check out Cornell University's eBird: all of our data is submitted and reviewed before being posted for use by scientists and casual birders alike.

Gary Granger

11

She's a "naturopath" bud. Snake oil stinks, and that's a stain you can't get out.

12

Hawks to haze crows, does that only work at night or just when perched?

We keep pigeons and see crows as friends. Crows don't usually bother pigeons and pigeons can usually outfly a hawk, but hawks take out pigeons with ease if they catch them off guard, scratching or perched outside their loft. If crows see a hawk cruising for prey, they typically gang up and harass it, until they drive it off, sometimes even when perched.

Just today saw 3 crows taking turns diving on a hawk perched near the crown of a fir tree, till it left. Crows are fearless; they'll even go after eagles. If our pigeons are out flocking and I hear the crows start cawing clamorously, I'll look around for a hawk and start whistling and waving to the flock. Trying to call them back to the loft.

Hope our pigeons never set down and start scratching where someone’s put out some Avitrol. Is that even legal? Any birds could ingest it, even hawks, most of which are protected -- big fine for killing one.

13

In case it makes anyone feel better about the "bird poop," it mostly isn't poop. It's mostly pee. Birds don't have bladders or make liquid pee (one of the adaptations that make them light enough to fly). So they concentrate their pee into a semi-solid uric acid. That is why the "poop" is mostly white, that's the uric acid. Birds combine pee and poop into a single dropping. (This is why chicken manure is so much richer in nitrogen and potassium than manure from mammals -- it's mostly pee.) Why should anyone care? Well, uric acid is so acidic that it not only cannot harbor most bacteria, but kills most of the bacteria in any poop that is mixed with it. So health hazard from the crows is negligible -- if anyone ever brings that up.

15

...into a crowbar...

16

13,740
Number of crows roosting in downtown Portland as of last night (Dec. 28, 2018).

985
Number of people who have "liked" the Mercury's feature on the crows.

2
Number of people trolling on this comment string.

0
Number of reasons for being intentionally mean to others.

My name is not "bud" and I'd be happy to have you join me for a walkabout and a face-to-face conversation about what ever might seem most important while I document the roost. Feel free to get in touch through our web site.

Gary

According to Merriam-Webster's on-line dictionary:
troll, as a transitive verb
2a : to antagonize (others) online by deliberately posting inflammatory, irrelevant, or offensive comments or other disruptive content

17

Gary, as long as you align and tacitly endorse exploitive psuedo science that replaces evidence with magical thinking and milks the gullible and desperate, your attempt to claim some sort of moral high ground is utterly hollow. Gary, do you believe naturopathy is a legitimate science?

18

17

Q. Is there more to this Planet than meets the eye?

A. Not to (most of) those never having experienced the Wonders of Psychedelia.*

Crows (and Ravens) (and Magpies!) Rock.
In our race to Capitalize the Planet
we rush headlong to make it Safe
(and comfy!) for Capitalists.

Animals? Well, they're kinda on their own there...

*from Scientific [SCIENCE!] American: "Yes, Make Psychedelics Legally Available, but Don't Forget the Risks"

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/yes-make-psychedelics-legally-available-but-dont-forget-the-risks/

19

I do not dispute your contention that those who dull and deaden their rationale minds with poisons or fanaticism are more likely to believe in faith healing rituals like naturopathy. That's hardly an advertisement for mind altering chemicals. "Try psychadelics, they make you happily ignorant and gullible".

21

@19 -- "Try psychadelics, they make you happily ignorant and gullible".

It's true, there's some what should NEVER use such tools.

So, you'll never know...

22

20

"@18- good grief, you just blather on and on."

thank Gawd you're not Reading any of it. eh?

23

A great article. And it raises interesting questions. Can we help the crows find a comfortable urban niche that minimizes nuisances to people in the city? Is it wise to chase the crows from one roosting spot to another? I'll suggest a well-written book that's also relevant, Darwin Comes to Town. A great article, thank you Sarah.